Scotland’s Roman Catholic archbishop is contesting accusations of “inappropriate behavior” with priests, claims leveled as Cardinal Keith O’Brien prepares to join the conclave that will choose a new pope.
British newspaper The Observer reported Sunday that three priests and one former priest have leveled allegations against O’Brien that date back 30 years. The Observer did not recount details of the claims or identify any of O’Brien’s accusers, but said one of the priests alleged “that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him.”
O’Brien did not attend Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday, but the Scottish Catholic Media Office told CNN that the cardinal “contests these claims and is taking legal advice.”
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His accusers took their complaints to the Vatican representative in Britain and demanded O’Brien’s resignation, The Observer reported. At the Vatican, Father Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the church, told reporters that Pope Benedict XVI has been informed of the allegations.
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia announced Friday that five priests under investigation for sexual abuse would be permanently removed from ministry, while three other priests had been exonerated. The eight were among 26 priests who were suspended in early 2011 because of past accusations of sex abuse or improper sexual behavior.
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The five who will be removed were deemed ”unsuitable for ministry,” while the other three may return to active ministry immediately, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, announcing his first major action in the sexual abuse scandals since he took office last September.
His predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, suspended the 26 priests after a withering grand jury report in February 2011 accused the archdiocese of allowing as many as 37 priests to keep working, and remain in possible contact with children, despite “substantial evidence of abuse.”
At a news conference Friday, Archbishop Chaput said that one of the priests mentioned in the grand jury report had died, and that church officials had not yet reached conclusions about an additional 17. Six of those priests are still under criminal investigation by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.
Eight other priests never named in the grand jury report were exonerated last year and were allowed to remain in ministry. Two others had already left the archdiocese.